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Harrison County jail may be used for records storage

by Paul Darst

STAFF WRITER

A committee charged with finding a new use for the Harrison County Correctional Center is considering using the space for records storage rather than housing federal prisoners.

Converting the county jail to a federal holding facility appears to be unfeasible, at least for now, commissioner Beth Taylor said.

"At this time, we are renewing our investigation of archiving records there, not just for Harrison County, but for anyone who has important records to store ," said Taylor, who chairs the Jail Re-use Committee.

The facility will close next summer when its inmates are transferred to the new North Central Regional Jail in Doddridge County.

While housing for federal prisoners will remain a regional need, providing a staff to operate such a holding facility locally would be too costly, Taylor said.

Finding appropriate storage space is difficult for local governments around the state, which is why the county is looking at that less-expensive alternative, she said.

"We have a real need (for space) here, but a lot of courthouses are older and have an even worse problem," Taylor said. "Certain records have to be kept and certain records are very valuable. We could make sure (the jail) space is retrofitted such that the heat and humidity can be controlled ."

The committee will begin getting cost estimates on installing environmental controls and calculating a storage rate, Taylor said. Then, the committee will survey other counties and local governments to see if they would be interested in paying to store their records there.

But the records storage plan only involves part of the jail space, Taylor said. Some space will be used for the detoxification center and some still will be occupied by the county magistrates.

Under Taylor's preliminary plan, the fourth floor of the jail will also be used as a temporary holding facility for county inmates headed to the regional jail or those awaiting trials.

The fifth floor, which is designed for maximum-security prisoners, will remain untouched for the time being until an appropriate use can be found for it, she said.

The committee should have a formal proposal for what to do with the jail ready to present to the commission by late February, Taylor said.

Staff writer Paul Darst can be reached at 626-1404 or by e-mail at pdarst@exponent-telegram.com.

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